Lock In Gets a Starred Review From Kirkus
Posted on June 26, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 20 Comments
Hooray! That’s two starred reviews for the book now, including the one from Publishers Weekly. The Kirkus review in full is here, but here’s a nice pull quote:
“This SF thriller provides yet more evidence that Scalzi is a master at creating appealing commercial fiction.”
Indeed, making commercial fiction is my job. I’m glad Kirkus thinks I’m doing it well. This time, anyway (it’s not always the case).
Also, the release date of Lock In: exactly two months from now. I’m beginning to get excited.
I’m curious – why the reviews 2-3 months in advance? I’m not that in-tune with book reviews, but it strikes me as odd. For example, movies and music and apps get reviewed much closer to their release, if not afterwards. Just wondering.
The audience for starred reviews are bookstores, largely; that’s why they use a one-star system to call out books they think will be particularly noteworthy to customers and readers, but don’t attempt to grade them any further than that.
It also explains why the pull-quote is surprisingly mercantile. Readers don’t care if an author is particularly commercial, they care if the book is good. “Yet more evidence that Scalzi is a master” sounds like the most you could put on a cover without raising questions, but at this point in our host’s career I’d bet the publishers have their favourite pull quotes they they can easily recycle.
PW and Kirkus (as well as Booklist and Library Journal) are magazines focused on booksellers/libraries, so the reviews are early to help them decide which books they want to stock/order.
JS – have you noted that Kirkus or any others affect sales, or is it that a well-selling book will also get a good review?
That Kirkus review of Redshirts – hrmmm. I respectfully disagree.
What they have the potential to affect is orders — that is, how many copies of the book are ordered by booksellers to put on their shelves. Which indirectly can have an effect on sales, because more books available means more books can be sold. They can also affect sales in terms of how many copies are taken by libraries, who look to the trades for purchasing advice.
Yah, how trustworthy is Kirkus given its dead-wrong review of Redshirts? Or maybe they’re just humor-impaired and can do a good job rating things that aren’t supposed to be funny?
“PW and Kirkus (as well as Booklist and Library Journal) are magazines focused on booksellers/libraries, so the reviews are early to help them decide which books they want to stock/order.”
They also have the potential to send the book to straight to NYT best seller status, which has struck me as a specific goal for this project in particular. (Not a plaint; just an observation.)
Publishers Weekly also largely panned Redshirts, although it got a starred review from Booklist. Generally speaking however, Redshirts got the widest range of positive and negative reviews of any book in my career, almost certainly because it’s humor, and humor is highly ideosyncratic. You either find something funny or you don’t. If you don’t find it funny, you’re probably not going to like it at all.
Mind you, I fully expected the Redshirts reviews to be across the board specifically for that reason. The good news for me is that on balance more people seem to find it funny than don’t.
Consider that Kirkus may have more than one reviewer. Obviously the one who reviewed Lock In is the smart one.
What’s the difference between ‘commercial’ and ‘good’?
One’s based on sales, the other is based on one’s tastes.
Ebbr: They’re two entirely different aspects of a book that have little to do with each other, such as color and length.
The “commercialness” of a book is a measure of its target audience. A commercial book aims at a broad market. It won’t be a market of everyone (because that’s impossible), but it will be a book accessible to most readers. To use our host as an example, his books may be read and enjoyed by folks who primarily love space opera, but also by people who are only casual fans of SF.
Good or bad can apply to any sort of book. A scholarly treatise on 15th century French music will have a limited audience, but it might also be groundbreaking and well-written. Practically no commercial appeal, but very “good” in what it does, and appreciated by the few hundred people it is written for.
Two whole months? Are you unfamiliar with instant gratification disorder (I just made that up).
Yay! and I’m getting increasingly excited about reading it! (Think it’s available a day or two later in the UK?)
@–E but they don’t have bylines (or at least none that I could see) which means Kirkus is letting the review speak for the entire organization. No, I submit that they’re humor-impaired (because, of course, my standard of humor is the objectively correct one).
As a 30 year Kirkus reader… I would not disagree with “humor-impaired”, they are also somewhat “genera impaired.” Serious fiction and mainstream non-fiction tends to get reviewed more positively than SF, Romance, or heaven forbid Western fiction. Which makes the glowing review for Lock In all the more noteworthy.
I enjoyed Unlocked and have been very impatiently waiting for Lock In. What is behind the long lead time before release? Is it specifically to allow these type of advanced reviews to be completed?
Does it have something to do with Tor not wanting Lock In to step on some of its other releases?
I’m genuinely curious. This is an aspect of that business that I don’t understand.
So when will this come out in audiobook form and will you be having Wil Wheaton reading it?